Saturday, October 2, 2010

Like two bikes passing in the night

I was going to title this "Love at first bike," but then I found an even better platitude to make you cringe. One night last week on my way home from work, I paused at a busy intersection on my bike and looked up to see the beau across the street on his bike and on his way to work, waving. I suppose this was bound to happen eventually but given the number of different routes I've been using to get back and forth and the fact that our work places are on opposite sides of the Imperial Palace, I was taken completely and blissfully unaware at the coincidence in this anonymous capital and our being able to steal a quick kiss on the corner before going our separate ways. It's truly the moments like these that make all those fist-clenching ones easier to simply let go. (No more gaggy love stuff, promise.)

I'm not in a habit of naming inanimate objects, but I feel like my bike should have a name. What better name than Mavis? I can't pin point where my obsession with the name Mavis started, possibly around the time I was at an all girls' college in Wellington, but there was a definite era when I named everything Mavis.

I haven't had a bike since I was on exchange during uni, so getting on a bike, my Mavis, was incredible. Riding her home that first night past the Imperial Palace, dark and still, was nothing short of thrilling. It reminded me of my first car ride in Tokyo ever. Now I am used to taxiing through the city at inappropriate hours and even having been behind the wheel a couple times myself (rental car, not taxi), it no longer feels special, but when I was at uni here, I hadn't been in a car in months and I certainly wasn't taking taxis - I was at Pure until 5am and falling asleep on the train home, only to wake up in fucking Mitaka. But my first car ride after months spent popping up from underground at various spots around town and hurtling by the buildings on above-ground trains felt very foreign. Foreign and not a bit luxurious, sitting next to my first private student - an older lawyer type - in his Mercedes, as we glided through the Shinjuku neon. No, I probably shouldn't have gotten into his car, but I made a judgment call based on his business card, the fact that our first lesson was at the Hyatt, and that I could probably have taken him if it came down to it. If you ever get to the point where you feel you really know a city, try a different mode of transport - bike, double-decker bus, car, piggy-back and legs all come with their own unique perspective.

One first I did have last week, was the pure joy of riding a bike while listening to music. Do other people know about this stuff?!? I feel like I've been missing out all this time. Half-way through my ride home I decided to stick in my ear buds and HELLO WORLD!! I suddenly felt like I was starring in my own private music video on a bike and had to resist trying to dance while pedalling. I was content to think that biking itself was enough but this whole biking while musicing combo has just turned it up to eleven. Thrilling, I tell you, thrilling. I've had a similar feeling at the gym when I suddenly feel the urge to frantically twist my hands around in time to the Bollywood driving my workout forward or to start shaking my bootay to a particularly inspiring piece of rap. Try it. You can thank me later.

If you are on two wheels in Japan, check out these sites and articles about biking . Note that when I say "biking" when referring to myself, I am literally just propelling myself forward on a two-wheeled vehicle in a very perfunctory manner and am no way experienced, sporty or non-threatening to pedestrians. Regardless of whether you have a bike with gears or a mama-chari, the above sites should still prove interesting. With the feeling of fall creeping up, fashion magazines are dishing out forecasts on the next "it" accessory to have for this season but if you ask me, it's a bicycle hands down.


julie said...

You're so right, biking is the best! I miss biking so much in Bangkok, coz it's too dangerous here. But I had a dopey little 3-speed bicycle with a basket in the front that I rode everywhere when I lived in the Thai countryside, encountering horses, cows, bewildered farmers who had never seen a foreigner before, little kids shouting incoherent English, and elephants!

Biking is where it's at. Also at university, I loved riding my sleek bike to school, in Montreal, I loved riding my bike to piknik electronik in the parc an hour away. Oh man, biking!

I can just imagine how awesome it must be to bike in Tokyo from your posts!

Is getting too sweaty on the way to work a problem with biking in the Tokyo weather? At uni, it was ok to be a bit sweaty, but we weren't in a formal office environment!

kathrynoh said...

Be careful with the music while biking!

I'm a shockingly bad bike rider. I have no confidence at all and I think that is the worst thing. Also, every time I think I'll give it a go, I hear about someone having a serious bike accident.

Melon said...

I have recently gotten a bike myself, and I must say that I take back every bad thing I ever said about bicycles! I used to hate them, but my experience of the bicycle then was that of crashing my mountain bike on forest trails I was dragged on to by my dad.
But now! Now! I have experienced the bicycle as a commuter vehicle and it is amazing! So many times while I'm riding it around Kyoto I smile just thinking about how awesome it feels to be on a bike. And although it's a small, dopey observation, the magic of being able to sit and coast (effectively rest) while still moving is possibly one of the best things ever.

Green-Eyed Geisha said...

Julie: Your countryside experience sounds incredible! Although a hard core city girl, I think I secretly fantasize about biking down a country road. Are bike lanes popular in Montreal? My younger brother lives there and also just got a bike to ride to school. It's great biking here in Tokyo, although kind of stressful at the same time. The laws are really contradictory and most people ride on the sidewalk - this means I hate pedestrians when I'm on a bike and I hate bikes when I'm walking. I'm a bit hesitant to ride in the street unless there are no cars. It's a shame the city isn't more pro-bike. And YES sweating is a problem - I am a huge schvitzer - I get pretty warm on the way to work but I try not to go too fast to counteract this. I think I need to start changing at work though, as I'm a bit worried about ruining my clothes.

kathrynoh: Thanks for your concern. I usually have it turned down enough so that I can still hear what's going on. Like I said above to Julie, I'm usually on the sidewalk so I don't need to worry about cars.

Melon: Not a dopey observation at all!!! Biking around Kyoto sounds fantastic, I rented a bike when I was in Arashiyama a couple years ago. It's renewed the city for me, for sure.

ThePenguin said...

Cycling on the roads certainly takes some getting used to, especially as the lanes are usually just wide enough to accommodate a single vehicle, which means you have to spend a lot of the time precision-steering along the line of the gutter. On the other hand it is nice to be able to legitimately use the pavements.

On the other other hand (I have two), as someone who likes to consider themselves a responsible cyclist (incidents involving a certain wall which leapt out at me late one Friday night and crushed the front forks of my treasured imported bicycle excepted) I am sorely tempted to wrestle to the ground anyone pedalling about in their own little cocoon oblivious to anything else around them, and beat them to a bloody pulp with the lead-cored clue stick I carry around at all times, so I would very much like to second kathrynoh's kindly admonition.

Green-Eyed Geisha said...

Penguin: I totally agree and think for the most part, only skilled bikers (with helments) should be on the road. That said, cycling on the sidewalk is not a perfect solution for the cyclist or surrounding pedestrians. Lest you think I am one of the bubble bikers, let me assure you that while I am dancing in my head, my fear of running into a rogue walker keeps me pretty alert most of the time. I will watch out for those moving walls though, thanks for the advance warning (and condolences on your bike)!

j. said...

is the purple bike yours? i think i have found the color i'm going to paint my bike - love it!!

Green-Eyed Geisha said...

j.-Thanks. It's actually pretty pink but doesn't show up well in the photo..

Generic Jen B said...

That reads like a scene in a classic film; such timeless romance Mavis brings!

Green-Eyed Geisha said...

Jen: Indeed :) I think Mavis is just the beginning of what's to come!